Friday night NYHC legends Murphy’s Law played a show at Olde City’s Khyber Pass, a small, beer-soaked dive of a bar that has been a Philadelphia institution for quite some time now. While most of the crowd in attendance was there for music, drinks and fun, there was a very small segment of the crowd who showed up with a completely different agenda.
During the set of one of the opening bands; Workhorse III, a buzz began to filter through the crowd like an infection as whispered reports of three strangely-dressed gentlemen circled through the audience of mostly middle aged Murphy’s Law fans. Outside the club, loitering on 2nd street were three unidentified men causing quite a stir as they were dressed in full Nazi SS vintage military garb. These men were wearing camoflouged combat pants; woolen, WWII-era coats adorned with SS emblems and authentic Third Reich hats with Nazi insignias emblazoned atop them. They were heavily tattooed with more Nazi-inspired symbols and were seen casually mingling within and without the club; smiling, chatting and carousing as if oblivious to the outrage their appearance was causing. Witnesses on the scene could not understand their intentions and, at first, most who witnessed their strange costumes were convinced that it had to be some kind of sick joke.
A swarm of young, heavily tattooed Hardcore kids began swelling along 2nd St. as the three alleged Nazis were inside the club, presumably watching the bands. The air was charged with tension as the ranks of those opposed to the unknown Nazis and their style of dress swelled to about 40 or 50 people, all with menacing intent in their eyes. Nervous, excited glances passed through crowd as each and every person on the crowded street knew what was coming. Any veteran of Hardcore shows, no matter where, has experienced similar situations as tensions run high between opposing ideologies and unspoken, almost telepathic signals are sent back and forth through an advancing wolfpack of violence-craving teens and twenty-somethings. Beer bottles, cueballs in socks and various and sundry convenient weapons were clutched in anticipatory aggression as fists coiled at the ready for that sudden moment when the tension snapped like a too-taut wire and everything exploded.
The three alleged Nazis finally exited the club between the bands’ sets and as they did muscles locked and begged to be sprung. Again, oblivious to the air around them, the three tried to make their way through the heart of the crowd that had been gathering on 2nd street and awaiting their arrival.
It didn’t take long.
Glass smashed and a footrace ensued. The three victims barely made it 50 yards before the angry crowd set upon them. One Nazi was caught right in the middle of 2nd street as punches, kicks, bottles, boots and blows rained down upon his prone and turtled body. He could be heard crying for help all up and down the block. The other two were caught nearby and beaten severely as more weapons appeared. By now the bustling crowds of Olde City hipsters was aware of some kind of ruckus and nearby bouncers from other clubs stepped in to intervene. They pretty much saved the lives of the heavily outnumbered Nazis.
Then, almost as quickly as it began, it was over, and the unidentified victors were seen parading up and down 2nd St wearing the spoils of their bloody victory: the vintage Nazi caps that had been on the heads of the victims. The crowd of hooligans quickly dispersed as witnesses were questioned by police. No arrests were made.
Alleged Nazis moments after the riot. The boisterous crowd quickly filed back into the Khyber to watch Murphy’s Law. Frontman Jimmy Gestapo joked about the incident, bantering with the crowd about the price of freedom. The band quickly launched into an inspired set that pushed the boundaries of excitement, energy, and aggression. Spurred on by the adrenaline that a good riot inspires, the band erased the limitations of old age and, for the entire time they played, one could almost swear it was 1988 again. Murphy’s Law ran through a set of fan favorites: “Cavity Creeps,” “Sit Home and Rot,” ‘Crucial Bar-B-Q,” and a slew of others whipped the crowd into further frenzy as fans stormed the stage and shared the mic with the always-charming and fun-loving Jimmy Gestapo. Jimmy rode the waves of a smallish, tightly packed crowd of sweaty revelers as the band just kept taking the energy level up and up. The band continually doused the crowd with beer, Jaggermeister and anything else they could throw out in celebration. At one point, while joking about the incident outside the club, Jimmy and the boys were so inspired by the event that they improvised a song right on the spot, calling out a refrain of “You should have known better,” in direct reference to the Nazis and their outrageous garb. The audience was ecstatic and broke into spontaneous pits of almost-geriatric skanking and slamming. The response was truly amazing.
Violence has long been a necessary evil of the Hardcore scene, justified or not. It’s what makes the music and the shows attractive: the potential for danger and incident always add an arc of electricity to the atmosphere that is not present in any other genre of music. Friday night Murphy’s Law brought it, lit it up and watched it burn in incendiary waves of blockheaded destruction. It was a sight to behold.